suliao qing: plastic friendship

A viral news story about a Chinese woman whose decade-long friendship imploded when her “friend” stole her wedding present has popularised the term suliao qing, meaning fake friendship.

Suliao means “plastic” and qing “friendship.” But suliao qing is a shortening of suliao jiemei qing, meaning “plastic sisters,” which came from an unfortunate viral tweet that holds, “the friendship between women is like a plastic flower – it’s fake, but it never dies.”

It is unclear when the term began to spread among Chinese people, but it might be traced to China’s wildly popular TV series about women of ancient imperial households forced to squabble among themselves for the emperor’s love. A common (and sexist) stereotype suggests that women are more prone to jealousy than men – particularly when it comes to their own gender. It would demonstrate suliao qing for a woman to post online a photo with a friend in which her friend looks ugly. In the business world, a popular trope holds that two women may appear friends but, hearing the other is to be promoted, the first may get upset or try to sabotage the situation.

Suliao qing can also be used by a woman who discovers her partner has cheated on her with her closest friend. In this case, even a “plastic flower” may die. Chinese people also now use this term to describe a loveless marriage in which a couple remains together. With no plan to divorce, they resign themselves to pale life as a plastic flower with no fragrance.

*Sourcing: China Report, May 2018

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